Skip to main content

The Need for DNP-Prepared Clinical Nurse Leaders

Healthcare leadership during non-pandemic times requires special education and preparation, but expert leadership will be especially vital post-pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated telemedicine ‘by a decade,’ transitioned more care to home health, highlighted racial disparities and demanded a new era of healthcare preparedness.

Our nation’s complex healthcare system needs nurses with more education and preparation to lead the future of patient care using data and research.

What Are Today’s Nursing Issues for Nurse Leaders?

There are several issues facing nurse leaders today. Many problems revolve around preparing and securing the nursing workforce while others focus on how nurses can improve the access and quality of healthcare. Nurse leaders in the field are asking themselves:

  • What is the best approach to translate research into practice?
  • What is the solution to the nursing shortage, especially post-pandemic?
  • How should organizations help build resilience and promote work-life balance?
  • What strategies can bridge the gap to health inequities?
  • How will basic medical care be made available to everyone?
  • How do nurses handle bullying in the workplace?
  • Are current care practices the best methods?

How Is a DNP Different than a Ph.D.?

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) are terminal degrees but with different purposes. A DNP is a nursing practice doctorate, while a Ph.D. is a nursing research doctorate.

A DNP is often a degree that allows professionals in clinical practice to identify gaps, evaluate current training against the evidence-based practice and explore the impact on patient outcomes. They focus on translating evidence into practice to improve systems of care, patient or population outcomes and nursing care.

A Ph.D. in Nursing focuses on developing new knowledge to contribute to the body of nursing. Professionals with a Ph.D. in Nursing focus on the research process, lead or conduct research and share that information through presentations and publications.

Joni Watson, DNP, MBA, RN, OCN, beyond Oncology Consultant, shares her experience as a DNP and what that role entails:

“The DNP nurse and the Ph.D. nurse have a symbiotic relationship — informing one another — all for the benefit of achieving the quadruple aim. The Ph.D. nurse leader continuously works to answer new questions to build the nursing body of knowledge, sharing that with the DNP nurse leader. The DNP nurse leader applies that knowledge into the daily practice environment, shortening the translational practice timeline. If there is no evidence to support a nursing practice, then the DNP nurse leader informs the Ph.D. nurse leader, who then helps fill that gap to determine best care. It’s a beautiful, collaborative circle.”

The following are the four aim goals Dr. Watson mentioned — all evolved from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s triple aim framework:

  1. Improved individual patient experience
  2. Enhanced population health
  3. Reduced healthcare costs
  4. Improved workforce satisfaction and retention

These goals not only promote health for patients and organizations but also a healthy work environment.

How Can a DNP Help Nurse Clinical Leadership?

DNPs practice from the bedside and the boardroom to help transform health and health systems. They use their formal knowledge and skills to translate evidence from nursing research into practice. As Dr. Watson shared, DNP and Ph.D. nurses always partner together. The DNP identifies gaps in clinical practice, whereas the Ph.D. formulates the question and conducts the research to close the gap.

Healthcare is a changing environment requiring new roles and new ways of leading to ensure effective solutions. According to Dr. Watson, “The DNP-prepared clinical nurse leader has the opportunity to quickly enhance patient care of all populations, no matter the care setting, by translating the current evidence into practice. While, yes, every nurse is responsible for implementing evidence-based practice, the DNP nurse leader is a catalyst in systematic care, rapidly improving patient outcomes with the strongest and most recent evidence.”

A DNP program produces leaders in nursing. The program teaches them how to locate, evaluate and implement research into clinical practice. DNP graduates take this information back to their local communities and make changes to fit their specific patient population. See the following examples on how you might take research and implement it in your community:

  • Adjusting COVID-19 policies from data tracking and vaccine availability by county
  • Working with community leaders such as religious leaders on a public health initiative nutrition
  • Reducing fall admission rates by reviewing incidence in the community
  • Lobbying for mobile health clinics for a rural population
  • Ensuring all education materials are available in languages for immigrant communities

Learn more about The University of Texas at Arlington’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice program.


DNP vs Ph.D. in Nursing – What Is the Difference?

Joni Watson, DNP, MBA, RN, OCN (Interview, May 2021)

My American Nurse: Focusing on the Quadruple Aim of Health Care

National Center for Biotechnology Information: Clinical Leadership Development and Education for Nurses: Prospects and Opportunities What Is a DNP and Is It Worth It?

STAT: 9 Ways Covid-19 May Forever Upend the U.S. Health Care Industry

Related Articles

Request More Information

Submit this form, and an Enrollment Specialist will contact you to answer your questions.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Or call 866-489-2810

Ready to Begin?

Start your application today!

or call 866-489-2810 866-489-2810
for help with any questions you may have.
  • Choose All That Apply